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Driven: Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.

Driven: Volvo XC40 First Edition
Volvo's new XC40 SUV is another class-leader.


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Volvo XC40 First Edition

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: chunky looks, stunning cabin, smooth drivetrain, strong performance, generally relaxing nature, decent chassis, bountiful equipment list as First Edition

Not so good: a bit pricey as a First Edition

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo XC40 D4 AWD First Edition
Price: XC40 from £27,610; as tested £39,905
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 135g/km (VED £205 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 55.4mpg
Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm from 1,750-2,500rpm

Our view:

What must Ford be thinking right now? Since it hived off the former Premier Automotive Group in the period from 2006-2010, during Alan Mulally's leadership of the American giant, all the brands released from the Blue Oval's grip have subsequently blossomed. Aston Martin took a while, but it currently has the strongest model line-up it has ever had and a future that's brighter and more secure than at any other point in its storied history. Jaguar and Land Rover, meanwhile, have merged together to become one conglomerate that is, in the old-school vernacular, nothing more than a licence to print money.

And now Volvo is fast becoming the go-to premium marque in the entire world. Everything the Swedish company touches lately turns to gold and that has all come about in the Geely ownership years. The Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) revolution is well and truly on, with an absolute avalanche of stunning products of all shapes and sizes coming out of the Scandinavian north. In our opinion, all of the XC90, XC60, V90 and V90 Cross Country are, at the very least, challenging for overall class honours, if not their undisputed market segment leaders. They're all utterly brilliant. Shame we can't quite say the same about the S90, but we still like it regardless.

So now, with most of the upper end of the fleet in place (the new SPA V60 is on the way and we can't wait to try it) attention at Gothenburg turns to the smaller end of the range, where the more affordable Volvos will sit on a similar platform to SPA but smaller, called the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA). And, as crossovers are all the rage right now, it's only logical that the first of the 40-series to get the CMA treatment is the XC40 you see here.

And what a looker, eh? We must confess, given that the XCs 60 and 90 are so damned handsome and similar in appearance, we thought Volvo had taken an almighty risk when the idiosyncratic XC40 was first revealed - looking nothing like as simple as merely an XC60 with a bit more metal shaved out of its midriff. Instead, the XC40 has all its own details, like the clamshell bonnet with its lateral shut lines running along the tops of the front wings, the kicked-up C-pillar treatment, the contrast roof, jagged rear light clusters that echo the shoulder-lines of the rear wings and a dropped number plate plus a 'Volvo' logo in a scalloped recess on the tailgate - and all of them make it look, to reference the 1990s sitcom, absolutely fabulous. It's by far and away the best-looking thing in its class and, as a template for an Audi Q2-challenging XC20 that's still to come, it's a storming little piece of design.

It looks particularly good in First Edition guise, which means R-Design Pro trim (with whopping 20-inch alloys) plus a few choice optional extras as standard for a list price that's as near as dammit £40,000, albeit crucially the right side of that marker to keep it in a lower tax bracket from year two of ownership onwards. A lot? Maybe, if you look at it in cold black and white, but then you clamber aboard the XC40 and it's another faultless Volvo cabin. It has the nine-inch Sensus upright touchscreen, it has all the exquisite fixtures and fittings of its bigger SUV siblings, it has the lovely (heated) steering wheel and the crystal-clear TFT instrument cluster, it has a nice, horizontal, concave trim feature on the dash and it has superb, solid door cards. You can even have the lower material/carpeted areas of the cabin in an eye-catching orange, but stick with even sombre colours and the XC40's interior design is a total winner.

So is its practicality and equipment list. On the former score, the rear bench provides plenty of space for two big adults and looks like it could even accommodate three grown-ups at a push, while the boot - accessed by an automatic, hands-free tailgate on the First Edition - is a sizeable 460 litres. And all the kit we've already listed is standard on the First Edition, plus you also get the Xenium Pack (panoramic roof, 360-degree camera and parking assist functionality), Intellisafe Pro (Pilot Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System, Cross Traffic Alert with Autobrake and Rear Collision Mitigation), the family-friendly Convenience Pack, a Harman Kardon premium sound system, keyless entry and go, smartphone integration with wireless charging, heated seats in all positions bar centre-rear and gearshift paddles, among much more. It therefore emphatically feels worth every single penny of the money Volvo is asking for it.

And this translates into the way it drives. The CMA-based XC40 motors along with the same élan and sophistication as the bigger SPA cars, only it also seems to throw into the mix more engaging handling and lively performance from its 190hp/400Nm diesel engine. This is probably because it weighs 1,735kg, which is light compared to its bigger relations, if not exactly trim in the grand scheme of things - but the XC40 lives up to its sporty exterior styling by providing an entertaining steer on the right roads. Sure, it's no Swedish, shrunken Macan, but it does feel notably sharper and more rewarding than any of the SPA Volvos we've tried yet.

However, it wins you over with its sheer effortless brilliance as a day-to-day motor. The diesel engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox are silky smooth and wonderfully reactive below 3,000rpm, the D4's four-wheel-drive system bestows the XC40 with real assurance in slimier conditions, while also providing steadfast cornering in the dry, and yet the ride on the fixed-rate springs and dampers is never short of exceptional - an incredible achievement, given the size of those wheels in the arches. Noise suppression is right out of the top drawer too, so the Volvo feels totally at home wherever you happen to be driving it: in congested town traffic, on narrow country roads, bombing along a sweeping and deserted A-road, or pounding up and down the drudgery of the M1 on a rainy Tuesday evening.

We did 450 miles in the XC40 in the space of a week and they felt as easy and non-eventful as 50 miles. It returned an overall economy of 38.9mpg, with a motorway best of 46.9mpg, so it's as good on fuel as you could expect of a 1.7-tonne AWD SUV, if you don't let wildly optimistic on-paper NEDC figures cloud your judgment, and the Volvo is just another example of the company's extraordinary revival now it is finally free from the clutches of Ford.

Yep, things like the XC40 must be an embarrassment to Dearborn. Because, while Ford's current array of crossover/SUVs are, at best, no more than 'snog/marry/avoid' (that'd be the Kuga, Edge and EcoSport, respectively), Volvo's triumvirate of high-riding vehicles are simply magnificent from top to bottom. And it's the most bijou of these, the XC40, that might just be the most impressive of the lot. It is, quite easily, the best vehicle in its particular class right now and a clear signpost to a very near future in which Volvo will have the strongest line-up of models of all the mainstream manufacturers, bar none.


BMW X2: new kid on the block from Munich is supposed to be a coupe-like X1, but it doesn't have the Volvo's alluring aesthetic, nor is it particularly cheap to buy.

Mercedes GLA: hopelessly outgunned by the XC40. Not as nice to look at, not as nice inside, not as nice to drive and packed with a series of not as nice engines. Mercedes can do better than this.

Volkswagen Tiguan: you'll need this in full-on R-Line specification and, with some options, it soon goes beyond 40 grand - making the more stylish and classy Volvo look like a bit of a bargain.

Matt Robinson - 30 Apr 2018    - Volvo road tests
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2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.

2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 First Edition. Image by Volvo.


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